The U.K.’s domestic antibribery laws are sturdy enough to handle a prosecution of Rupert Murdoch’s son, James, if one is justified.
He allegedly approved £100,000 or more in bribes to U.K. police in exchange for information published in the Murdoch-controlled News of the World.
So if the U.K. has sturdy enough laws, why are news outlets in London and the U.S. so busy speculating whether James Murdoch could face an American criminal prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?
Has everyone lost confidence in the ability of other countries to bring their local defendants to justice? Must we all now depend instead on the U.S. to fight every land war, police action, kinetic military operation, and domestic corruption scandal that breaks out anywhere?
The press speculation about James Murdoch and the FCPA can’t be healthy. Is it a sign that FCPA enforcement has gone too far? That the DOJ has been too active and vocal with enforcement and, like an overbearing father, has weakened his overshadowed offspring?
The U.K. is a sovereign nation with a legal system many centuries older than America itself. Britain has strong anti-corruption laws and a powerful motive in this case to enforce those laws.
James Murdoch’s alleged crimes were apparently local — bribes were paid from the till in the U.K. to police officials there for information used by a London newspaper, with the hope of increasing sales of that newspaper to people in the U.K.
It doesn’t sound like a case of international public corruption that needs the American Justice Department to clean it up.
Even if there’s FCPA jurisdiction over Murdoch’s company and the alleged crimes — and there probably is — why speculate about a criminal FCPA prosecution? There’s just no reason to go there.
For the record, we’ve heard no speculation from the DOJ itself, and we don’t expect to. The folks there wouldn’t insult their counterparts in London, who are more than able to handle this case on their own.
The SEC, on the other hand, may be wondering about some of News Corp’s accounting, and how its London subsidiary recorded the alleged bribes. That’s a fair question. An SEC enforcement action would be a civil matter, however, not a criminal prosecution. And it wouldn’t lead to forfeiture of James Murdoch’s assets, as one London paper speculated.